Government Data and the Invisible Hand
David G. Robinson
Information Society Project at Yale Law School
Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy; Princeton University - Department of Computer Science
William P. Zeller
Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy
Edward W. Felten
Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy; Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Computer Science
Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 11, p. 160, 2009
If the next Presidential administration really wants to embrace the potential of Internet-enabled government transparency, it should follow a counter-intuitive but ultimately compelling strategy: reduce the federal role in presenting important government information to citizens. Today, government bodies consider their own websites to be a higher priority than technical infrastructures that open up their data for others to use. We argue that this understanding is a mistake. It would be preferable for government to understand providing reusable data, rather than providing websites, as the core of its online publishing responsibility.
Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user need, we argue that the executive branch should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that exposes the underlying data. Private actors, either nonprofit or commercial, are better suited to deliver government information to citizens and can constantly create and reshape the tools individuals use to find and leverage public data. The best way to ensure that the government allows private parties to compete on equal terms in the provision of government data is to require that federal websites themselves use the same open systems for accessing the underlying data as they make available to the public at large.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: internet, web, transparency, presidency, infrastructure, executive branch
JEL Classification: K19, L86, O00, O30, O31, O38, O32
Date posted: May 28, 2008 ; Last revised: January 2, 2013
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